A top scientist, leading the study on South Africa’s first Covid-19 trial, says no vaccine is going to made available freely because someone needs to eventually pay for it.
“No vaccine is going to made available freely to all because someone needs to eventually pay for it. It is hard to actually develop a funding mechanism, which allows for access and equitable access across the globe,” Professor Shabir Madhi said in a virtual briefing on Thursday.
The professor of vaccinology at Wits University, and also the director of the South Africa Medical Research Council’s vaccines and infectious diseases analytics research unit, was speaking as a panelist on the World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa online press briefing on Covid-19 and vaccine development in Africa.
Madhi added that the onus on ensuring accessibility to vaccines would be on the various governments throughout the continent.
“The onus is on the part of governments throughout the African continent to be proactive in terms of engaging with the various initiatives to ensure that, when the vaccine becomes available, that they are actually able to access the vaccine.
“It is not the responsibility of industry, and I think that if we expect it to be the responsibility of industry, we will never get a vaccine onto the African continent,” he explained.
The top scientist further stated that it would be a tough ask to expect African manufacturers to start manufacturing vaccines, as most vaccines used on the continent are imported.
“The reality is that, except for a handful of vaccines, the rest of the vaccines that they use on the African continent are actually imported.
“Even in South Africa, there is no manufacturing capacity in essence – so we need to be guarded in terms of what we expect in terms of manufacturing on the African continent,” he added.
Madhi further cautioned that there is still a long path ahead in finding a vaccine and that the focus should be on adhering to non-pharmaceutical interventions.
“Although there is great excitement around vaccines, we need to understand, even with 19 vaccines going into human trial, you would be highly successful if more than two of that 19 are eventually shown to be safe and advantageous.
“So there is still a long path ahead before we get a vaccine that is going to be available and, at least, a few vaccines that are going be available against Covid-19,” he concluded.